- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

The recess appointment of Julie L. Myers to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of Homeland Security, has angered critics concerned about her lack of a law-enforcement background.

The 36-year-old former White House special assistant for presidential personnel, whose husband, John F. Wood, is chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and whose uncle is Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was among 17 recess appointments announced late Wednesday by the White House.

“I am sure Mrs. Myers is a very intelligent woman who would make a very fine special agent and would be qualified for that position,” said U.S. Border Patrol Agent T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 10,000 of the agency’s nonsupervisory agents.

“But, she is not qualified to head the agency,” Mr. Bonner said. “She has no experience in immigration and immigration is the key component in gaining control of the border.”

A high-ranking ICE supervisor, who asked not to be identified, said Mrs. Myers has “no credibility within the law-enforcement community,” adding that the agency has “too many problems to be handed over to someone who needs on-the-job training.”

The official questioned whether Mrs. Myers met the statutory requirement of having five years’ experience in both law enforcement and management. ICE supervisors and agents say morale within the agency is low because of budgetary cutbacks, a hiring freeze and lack of a specific mission strategy.

Mr. Chertoff said in a statement that Mrs. Myers had “consistently demonstrated” she had the “experience, judgment and determination necessary” to lead the agency.

Mrs. Myers served as chief of staff to Mr. Chertoff when he headed the Justice Department’s criminal division. She also was an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, where she oversaw U.S. export-control laws. She was deputy assistant secretary for money-laundering and financial crimes at the Treasury Department, served as a prosecutor in New York and associate independent counsel for Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr.

Included in the recess appointments was Ellen Sauerbrey, prominent Maryland Republican and unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate, to serve as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

Previously Mrs. Myers was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Her nomination was challenged by Democrats, led by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland and Barack Obama of Illinois, and women’s rights groups over her pro-life and family-planning record.

A recess appointment circumvents the need for approval by the full Senate and the appointees remain on the job until Jan. 7, 2007.

Mrs. Myers’ nomination was approved 9-6 in October by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, with six Democrats questioning her qualifications, but the vote was never sent to the full Senate. Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, placed a hold on the nomination because the White House refused to release a May 2004 e-mail from FBI agents seeking guidance on the questioning of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

In written comments to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mrs. Myers said she supervised 170 employees and a $25 million budget as assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Commerce Department. ICE, created March 1, 2003, has a work force of nearly 22,000 and an annual budget of $4 billion. It is the second-largest law-enforcement agency in the federal government.